INDONESIA: Police shoot and injure five farmers in Riau during land rights protests 


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-051-2012
ISSUES: Arbitrary arrest & detention, Freedom of expression, Land rights, Police violence,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding police shooting at farmers on 2 February 2012 in Rokan Hulu regency, Riau Province. The farmers were peacefully protesting against the activities of a palm plantation company, PT Mazuma Agro Indonesia (PT MAI), on disputed land, when the police opened fire against them. Five farmers were injured by the shooting, while five others were arrested.


According to the information from ELSAM (Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy) , WALHI (Indonesian Forum for Environment) Riau, and Palm Farmers Union (Serikat Petani Kelapa Sawit, SPKS), on 1 February 2012, local residents in Rokan Hulu, Riau received information that MAI was to start clearing the disputed land that the residents have a claim to. The land dispute is still being examined by the domestic court, which means that neither PT MAI nor the villagers can conduct any activities on the land.

In the early morning of February 2, the villagers started gathering in the concerned area. At around 8:30 am, two excavators and two bulldozers protected by Mobile Brigade (Brimob) officers from the North Sumatra Regional Police entered the land. This provoked some 100 residents of Rokan Hulu, who later attempted to expel the excavators and bulldozers from the disputed land. The situation got very tense and at 11am police officers started opening fire against the local residents without any warning. Osman Sihombing, Johanes Sitorus and Franky Saribu Dolok were shot in their legs, Ranto Sirait was shot in his thigh and Nomos Sihombing was shot in his buttocks. It was also reported that the police arrested five people who were involved in the protest.


The conflict between the farmers in Rokan Hulu regent with MAI has been ongoing since 1998.The local farmers claim that MAI illegally acquired and possessed 5508 ha of land in Batang Kumu village without any consent from either the local residents or the village head. They also insist that MAI’s acquisition of the land is illegal, as the company started carrying out its activities even before it was granted a concession from the Kampar Regent.

On 10 May 1998, along with the Head of Sungai Korang village, Mr. Marahalim Hasibuan, MAI forcibly evicted the farmers from their houses and lands. The eviction was carried out on the basis that the area in dispute was located in the North Sumatra province. An official map issued by the National Coordinating Agency for Land Survey and Mapping (Badan Koordinasi Survey dan Pemetaan Nasional, BAKOSURTANAL), however, depicts that such area is part of Riau province. It was also reported that on 26 September 1998 MAI and Mr. Hasibuan allegedly destroyed plants owned by the local farmers and burnt nine houses belonging to the members of the Kelompok Tani Harapan Makmur. Forty more houses were burnt on 15 July 1999 and another 40 were set on fire on 24 April 2010. Local farmers reported the arson to the Tambusai Police Station, but their complaints were simply ignored.

In addition to the aforementioned violence and intimidation, in 2009, the police arrested 14 villagers on the basis that they worked on lands which were part of the Registered Forest 40 Padang Lawas. Six of them were convicted and sentenced to six years imprisonment, whereas the rest, at the time of writing, are still detained.


The Head of Indonesian National Police Regulation No. 16 Year 2006 concerning Guidance on Mass Control prohibits the police to use live ammunitions when dealing with peaceful protests. According to the Indonesian National Police Regulation No. 1 Year 2009 on The Use of Force, live ammunitions should be used only to stop any activities which may cause severe injury or death, threaten the decency of the police officers or may threaten public safety. For activities other than these, the police are only allowed to use empty-handed force or chemical sprays, such as tear gas and chili spray, as well as non-sharp objects.

International human rights law also sets out that police shall use force only when it is strictly necessary. The UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms, for instance, emphasizes that force and firearms shall be used only ‘if other means remain ineffective or without any promise of achieving the intended result.’

Although the current Law No. 18 Year 2004 on Plantation establishes that plantation planning should be participatory, it does not require the government and the companies to consult the people whose life will be affected by the company’s acquisition of land. It only requires the companies wishing to acquire land belonging to an indigenous group to hold a public consultation to obtain the group’s consent. Yet even in such case, the law itself sets a very high standard in determining which groups are indigenous by requiring the issuance of a regional/provincial regulation stating that a group falls within such category. The difficult requirements under the law are also problematic because there are communities in Indonesia who still have the land traditionally and collectively yet no longer have a distinctive traditional way of life. These groups, who cannot really be classified as indigenous groups, are often the one whose right to land is violated.

Please write to the following authorities requesting a prompt, impartial and effective investigation on this case. As this case was triggered by the land dispute between MAI and the farmers, please also urge the following authorities to ensure that MAI does not carry out its activities on the disputed land without any consultation or consent of the local residents and that the permit granted to MAI be reconsidered.

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Dear ___________,

INDONESIA: Five farmers were shot in Riau due to land conflict with a plantation company

Name of victims: Johanes Sitorus (35-year old), Franky Saribu Dolok (30-year old), Nomos Sihombing (34-year old), Osmar Sihombing (30-year old), Ranto Sirait (27-year old).
Names of alleged perpetrators: Members of Mobile Brigade (Brimob) of North Sumatra Regional Police
Date of incident: 2 February 2012
Place of incident: Batang Kumu, Rokan Hulu, Riau

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the shooting of farmers which took place on 2 February 2012 in Rokan Hulu, Riau. According to several local NGOs, the shooting was a part of an ongoing land dispute between the local farmers and villagers with a palm company named PT Mazuma Agro Indonesia (MAI). The local farmers and villagers claim that MAI has illegally acquired 5508 ha of land without any permission from the local villagers or the Head of Batang Kumu village. The local farmers and villagers came to the disputed land in the early morning on 2 February 2012 after hearing that MAI will clear out the land. Later, at around 8:30am, two excavators and two bulldozers owned by MAI came to the land with protection provided by the Mobile Brigade (Brimob) officers from North Sumatra Regional Police. This led to a clash between police and the villagers, and at around 11am the police officers started opening fire against the local residents. The shooting resulted in the injury of five farmers: Osman Sihombing, Johanes Sitorus and Franky Saribu Dolok were shot in their legs, while Ranto Sirait was shot in his thigh and Nomos Sihombing was shot in his buttocks. I was also told that the police have arrested five others who were present in the protest.

I would like to question the excessive force used by the police in this case. Principle 4 of the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Firearms establishes that law enforcement officials shall apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms. As far as I am aware, none of the activities of the villagers on 2 February 2012 posed any serious threat that required shooting by the police. I would also like to emphasize that police as a public institution should not take any side in the land dispute and should carry out its duties independently.

The conflict between local farmers as well as villagers and the company started in 1998 when MAI, with the support of Head of Sungai Korang village at that time - Mr. Marahalim Hasibuan, forcibly evicted the local villagers who were members of the Wealthy Hope Peasants Group. They claimed that the area where these villagers lived in was part of North Sumatra, although previously in 1977 the National Coordinating Agency for Land Survey and Mapping (Badan Koordinasi Survey dan Pemetaan Nasional, BAKOSURTANAL) declared that the area was a part of Riau province. According to the information obtained by local NGOs, in September 1998 MAI and Mr. Marahalim Hasibuan burnt nine farmers’ houses in Batang Kumu and destroyed their crops. They also allegedly burnt more houses in June 2009 and April 2010; in total, 89 villagers’ houses have been burnt due to this land conflict. I have also been told that in 2009, 14 Batang Kumu villagers were arrested and six of them had been sentenced to six years imprisonment while six others have yet to be released. It is unclear what has happened to the two others.

I urge you to take all necessary measures to end the land conflict between the villagers and the company. The local farmers and villagers’ claim that MAI acquired the land illegally should be properly investigated. If their claim is proven accurate, the relevant authority is obliged to reconsider and revoke the permit it previously granted to the company.

The violence and crimes against the villagers should also be investigated independently and promptly, and all those responsible must be punished in accordance with the law. Furthermore, an inquiry must also be made into why the Tambusai sub-district police were not able to efficiently address the villagers’ complaints of arson and destruction.

It is also essential to ensure that the victims in this case receive adequate compensation.

Yours sincerely,



1. Mr. Susilo Bambang Yudoyono
President of the Republic of Indonesia
Jl. Veteran No. 16
Jakarta Pusat
Tel: +62 21 386 3777, 350 3088
Fax: +62 21 344 2223

2. Dr. Ir. Suswono
Minister of Agriculture
Ged. A, Lt. II Kmr. 219
Jl. Harsono RM No. 3
Ragunan, Jakarta Selatan
Tel: +62 21 780 4086, 780 4056
Fax: +62 21 7883 3066

4. Prof. Harkristuti Harkrisnowo
Human Rights General Director
Ministry of Law and Human Rights
Jl. HR Rasuna Said Kav. C-1 Kuningan
Jakarta Selatan 12920
Tel: +62 21 252 1344
Fax: +62 21 45555 5676

5. Gen. Timur Pradopo 
Chief of Indonesian National Police 
Jl. Trunojoyo No. 3
Jakarta Selatan
Tel: +62 21 721 8012
Fax: +62 21 720 7277

6. Ir. Gen. Pol. Wisjnu Amat Sastro
Head of North Sumatra District Police
Jl. Putri Hijau 14
Tel: +62 61 787 9363
Fax: + +62 61 556 680

7. Mr. Ifdhal Kasim
KOMNAS HAM (National Human Rights Commission)
Jl. Latuharhary No. 4B Menteng 
Jakarta Pusat 10310
Tel:+62 21 3925 230
Fax: +62 21 3151042/3925227 


Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme 
Asian Human Rights Commission (

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : AHRC-UAC-051-2012
Countries : Indonesia,
Issues : Arbitrary arrest & detention, Freedom of expression, Land rights, Police violence,